Tag Archives: media

Software is Eating the News: Are you in the in the Entertainment or Work business?

work-vs-entertainmentRight now, news organizations still haven’t really clarified what business they are in and/or what their audience is really looking for, as a result they often measure and focus on the wrong things.

Information technology businesses fall into two primary categories:

  1. Entertainment: The goal here is to help people have “fun,” to spend their downtime with you. And the more time spent with you the better. It doesn’t really matter whether that time spent makes them a better or worse human being, helps the planet, it’s fundamentally about entertaining people. Think Facebook, Pinterest, movies, gaming, etc.
  2. Work: The goal here is to help people take action and solve problems, whether pay their bills, stock their pantries, lose weight, learn new skills, influence public policies. In this case, the goal is to often spend the least time possible, as the primary thing you care about is the outcome. Traditional B2B software and Google search falls primarily into this category; you’re not using it for fun but to get the task done as efficiently and effectively as possible, and the less time spent the better.

So are journalists and news organizations primarily in the entertainment or work business?

Traditionally, they have straddled both worlds and as a result have muddied their value proposition, measure the wrong things and apply the wrong business models.

Additionally, what one segment of the audience and what journalists’ often think of as entertainment, others often think of as work, politics being one of them.


In the entertainment world, your goal is to get people to spend as much time with you as possible, since the whole point of your existence is to fill people’s free time. In this scenario, display advertising as a revenue stream and products that encourage spending time make sense.

In the work world, your goal is to minimize the amount of time people spend with you and instead give them the answers to their problems, or eliminate their problems all together. In this case, the less time spent on your site/application is often better, since the goal is to increase their time. In this scenario, display advertising makes absolutely no sense and products that don’t solve problems are bad.


So should news organizations focus on delivering more entertainment value or more work value?

And that will be a question for another day. 🙂

Local News: Everything Fits, So Publish It All

White snow and clear ice coated the ground and trees in Memphis – so I grabbed the family, loaded up the sleds and headed over to the city’s biggest park, Shelby Farms, to take in the fantastic scenery and ice-covered slopes.

To top it off, there was a photographer from the Commercial Appeal snapping photos of us and other families sledding, running, building snowmen, etc… My 12-year-old was certain fame and her picture in the paper were inevitable. Of course, neither happened –but in the process I realized just how badly the Commercial Appeal and other media organizations are missing opportunities to drive engagement, grow their audience and increase revenue.

As anyone who has ever worked in community journalism knows, people want to see themselves, their family and friends.

We’re no different. The next day, we scanned the paper and went to the Web site to see our pictures – and found none. Instead of giving our family (and the hundreds of others people photographed at the park that day) a reason to stay on the site, share links with family and friends, we went away disappointed.

Of the dozens, if not hundreds, of photos taken only a couple were published in print or online. Newspapers were founded on the tradition of scarcity and selectivity, “All the news that fits,” but in the age where space is limitless does that still make sense?

I would have loved to have seen a halfway decent photo of myself and my family sledding. While it may not have been the “best” photo of the day, from my perspective it would have been way better than none – as I have no photo of myself and my kids sledding. And even if I had photos, I can guarantee that the quality of the photos would far surpass the blurry out-of-focus action images from my point-and-shoot camera.

The drive to share pictures and videos of ourselves with friends and family has driven the explosive growth of Youtube, Flickr and other social networking sites, so why not leverage the photographic talent, already deployed resource and the newspaper’s brand to provide people with “published” photos of themselves to share with family and friends.

The cost of publication is minimal. The majority of the cost is already built into the publication of a single picture – so each additional picture should require virtually no incremental expense.

And the upside?

Audience Engagement & differentiation: Local content with local people to drive the engagement and differentiation local news organizations require to retain subscribers. In other words, we would have shared the pictures with family and friends –giving us another reason why we should read and subscribe to the Commercial Appeal.

More Revenue per assignment: Instead of having to support the cost of deployment with the ad dollars driven by just a photo or two, multiple photos should drive more revenue and lower the cost of the assignment.

My family’s fame & fortune: Best of all, my daughters’ would have achieved their desired celebrity and we would forever be etched in the history of Memphis, sledding down the slushy slope. While Flickr & Facebook are great ways to share photos – nothing beats the validation and excitement of appearing in the official media or local “paper of record”.

Missing the boat: Reporting on cool sites and companies instead of partnering with them to deliver new and exciting services

News organizations continue to miss the boat by not partnering with the ever-growing array of information technology providers to deliver new capabilities and the information people are looking for.

The great irony is that the news media wind up writing articles about how great these services are but fail to partner with them to provide their service as part of their brand’s offerings.

The partnerships would enable the local news organizations to better deliver on their core missions and increase revenue, while providing a great sales channel for these services.

Connecting Residents & Police

The June 3rd Wall Street Journal article “New Programs Put Crime Stats on the Map” highlighted how new services are not just delivering crime stats to audiences but truly connecting the police and residents. Residents are able to sign up for alerts and search for incidents, services that have already been offered by a number of local news sites.

The new services take it one step further and are providing an instant two-way communication platform between police and residents. The police are able to push out information and even request assistance from local residents about crimes. And residents can submit information and ask questions online.

What these services often lack is a big audience as building software is much easier than gaining adoption. In fact, CrimeReports.com stated they only had 70,000 users, a fraction of what they could get if they partnered with local media sites that already have a large audience. An audience who is looking for this type of information and not finding it.

Making Stimulus Spending Transparent

The May 28 NPR story about Onvia’s site Recovery.org  and what a great way it is to track how the stimulus money is being spent. The story identifies yet another great opportunity for the news media to join forces with an information/ technology company to provide a great service to a much broader audience.

Instead, NPR and the rest of the media just report on the site, instead of partnering with it to deliver the information as part of their mission of informing the public.

This could be a great partnership as the local media could write stories, develop charts, create videos, etc. based on the information on the site in their paper and TV editions that publicize the online tools thereby helping drive traffic to their sites. Onvia could generate new revenue and grow its audience by becoming part of the local and national media sites.

I could go on with a whole host of other examples, but instead just read a few articles about cool new services and you’ll find a host of potential partners.

If traditional media is ever going to successfully transition to an online model, they will need to aggressively move from developing in house solutions and purchasing software from traditional service providers to aggressively courting and integrating new technology and information services.

As someone who has seen his family’s life savings go down like the Titanic in a failed startup, I can attest that it’s generally easier to build a product than it is to build an audience – so most companies will jump at the chance to partner.

Contact me at kevinjmireles@yahoo.com if you’re interested in learning more.

Kevin Mireles has an MBA from the school of hard knocks and over 15 years of publishing and technology experience. He currently works full time in an unrelated industry but has never gotten over his first love.